The Latest News From Austin Election Campaigns

District 5 and 8 candidate forums, Beto gets around, and so do local endorsements

Beto O'Rourke speaks at the Lockhart Evening Lions Club (photo by Mike Clark-Madison)

Craig, Ellis Assemble Support in Southwest

The candidate forums sponsored by the city and League of Women Voters in the Districts 5 and 8 Austin City Council contests – both in the southwest, divided by Barton Creek – will take up the evening of Sept. 22 at the South Austin Senior Activity Center, 3911 Menchaca Rd. Contenders in D5, where incumbent Ann Kitchen is retiring, will square off at 6pm, most likely (they told the Chronicle) to continue the conversations about housing and affordability that have galvanized each council race. At an informal housing and transportation forum on Sept. 6 at Lustre Pearl South, Kitchen's policy aide Ken Craig – who has garnered the endorsements of his boss and of local labor leaders, including the Austin Fire­fighters Association and Workers Defense Action Fund – talked about streamlining the permitting process, building on transit corridors, and preserving existing multifamily units against demolition. Stephanie Bazan referenced building "missing middle" – meaning both unit sizes and price points – which Ryan Alter took further, pointing out that decades of inaction have caused the current housing crisis and that development needs to look beyond corridors to be truly diverse. Bill Welch (a Repub­lican) and Aaron Velazquez Webman (staunchly anti-establishment) were more hesitant to encourage citywide development, with Welch wanting to preserve neighborhoods without apartments and Webman encouraging action on a case-by-case basis, which Alter criticized as a piecemeal approach as he called for "a code for all of Austin." Brian Anderson II, who wasn't at Lustre Pearl, suggests on his website that he shares Alter's and Bazan's pro-housing views.

In the D8 debate at 7:30, incumbent Paige Ellis is clearly the front-runner in her reelection bid, having received endorsements from the Fire and EMS unions, the UNITE HERE Local 23 hospitality union, and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett; she noted in a recent press release that "we are working for faster response times, ensuring that Southwest Austin's two new fire stations are delivered on time and on budget." Richard Smith is Ellis' inevitable conservative foil this time, the role played by Frank Ward four years ago; he's gained Council Member Mac­kenzie Kelly's endorsement and backing from several Republican clubs. He tweeted recently about Council needing a voice that "cares about public safety," and called for an audit of Austin Energy to keep utility bill costs down. Kimberley Hawkins and An­ton­io Ross are also in the race.  – Lina Fisher

Beto Ends 49-Day Quest to Meet Every Texas Voter

Beto O'Rourke wrapped up his 49-day "Drive for Texas" summer barnstorming tour in front of a large and happy daytime crowd of hundreds of Caldwell County Dem­ocrats at the Lockhart Evening Lions Club (even the obligatory MAGA hecklers were impressed at the turnout). Lockhart's becoming more hip as it attracts budget-conscious Central Texas creatives (including Beto's musical opening act James McMurtry), and the crowd was eager to transfer some of Beto's energy into downballot races at the far southern end of Austin's Eastern Crescent. The whistle­-stops and town halls across the state have already begun to morph into TV spots as O'Rourke and incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott try to bury each other in this race's record-setting cash flows. Next up: the Texas Tribune Festival Sept. 22-24, and the one confirmed debate between the former congressman and the current governor, set for Sept. 30. (Beto has "accepted" "invites" to three others.)  – Mike Clark-Madison

Harper-Madison Thanks Opponents for Showing Up

The other incumbent running for reelection to Council, Natasha Harper-Madison, has outraised all of her challengers combined by about a factor of 10, so she could afford to be magnanimous at the District 1 city/LWV candidate forum, held at the Asian American Resource Center on Sept. 10, and thanked her fellow contenders for their bravery and commitment in seeking office. That was about the sum total of the argument in their favor; while each of the three challengers had some good moments on stage, Harper-Madison was able to use the institutional knowledge she's accrued from four highly eventful years on the dais to her advantage.

An exchange on the issue of systemic racism illustrated the point. When the moderator asked if efforts were working to broaden law enforcement training to address diversity, equity, and inclusion, the challengers could only speak in generalities. Melonie House-Dixon, a longtime Eastside resident, responded that racism is perpetual and the community needs to "hold the [Austin] Police Department accountable for what they do and how they do it." Misael Ramos, a tech worker and community volunteer, said he wants to see more investment into marginalized communities, after which "we can start talking about reassessing what we need to do for APD." Clinton Rarey, who styles himself as neither Republican nor Democrat, agreed but said the post-George Floyd political climate has driven good police officers from the force, "only leaving the bad officers."

Compare that to what Harper-Madison said: "DEI training, honestly, I think is kind of a joke," she told attendees. "I had our APD union president [Ken Casaday, who just announced his retirement] tell me that implicit-bias training was exclusively given to make white men feel guilty. Said it to my face. So that's how confident I am that that's working out well for APD." Recall that it was back in December of 2019, six months before George Floyd, that Harper-Madison initiated a measure (known inside City Hall as Resolution 66) to address APD's racist and homophobic culture, in the wake of the controversial and lucrative retirement of former APD Assistant Chief Justin New­som for, among many other things, calling Harper-Madison's predecessor "a dumb n----r."  – Brant Bingamon

City Council Candidate Forums

This series of forums is co-sponsored by the city, the Ethics Review Commission, and the local League of Women Voters; each can be viewed in person, online, or on TV or radio, and you can email [email protected] to propose questions to ask the candidates; see more info at

District 5: Thu., Sept. 22, 6pm, South Austin Senior Center, 3911 Menchaca Rd.

District 8: Thu., Sept. 22, 7:30pm, South Austin Senior Center, 3911 Menchaca Rd.

District 3: Thu., Oct. 6, 6pm, Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center, 808 Nile

District 9: Thu., Oct. 20, 6pm, City Hall, 301 W. Second

Mayor: Thu., Oct. 20, 7:30pm, City Hall, 301 W. Second

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle